On the second weekend of August, Baltimore, MD held its 43rd annual AFRAM Festival in Druid Hill Park. AFRAM is a free festival that celebrates African American life and culture through food, music, activities and arts. The festival is hosted by Baltimore’s Department of Parks & Recreation, the Mayor’s Office and the Office of Promotion & The Arts. “Today is a day where a group of people who originated from a different continent come together for a day of peace and harmony,” AFRAM attendee Cassandra Tobias shared. The AFRAM festival is significant to the city of Baltimore as African Americans make up 60 percent of Baltimore’s population.
Vendors sold items such as jewelry, art and clothing while food trucks with various African American cuisine lined the streets. There were activities and game stations for children and families. The event also highlighted health and wellness. Baltimore office of Health and Human services provided free STD and HIV testing. Vendors provided healthy food options and information about the many chronic diseases that plague the African American Community.
AFRAM, once known as the African-American Heritage Festival, started in 1976 in Druid Hill Park. For a short time, the festival moved to Camden yards but returned to Druid Hill Park in 2017. The long running event is not without its controversy. When the event moved back to Druid Hill Park, it was shortened from a two-day event to a ten-hour, one-day event. Additionally, the major recording artists were replaced by local, lesser known music acts in an effort to save money. Many Baltimore natives were outraged that the only event that the only cultural event that was forced to cut costs in 2017 was the event honoring African Americans, especially given the demographic of Baltimore. In subsequent years, the Mayor’s office has placed more focus on the quality of the event while maintaining lower costs.
The event has made a comeback as a two-day event with a combination of local and major recording artists. This year’s performances included Sevyn Streeter, Kiana Lede’, Rick Ross, Blackstreet, The Combs Brothers (Sean “Diddy” Combs’ sons) and Dru Hill. Be sure to check out the official AFRAM website for next year’s event.